6:00 PM ET, September 10, 2005
Commonwealth Stadium, LEXINGTON, KY
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Rafael Little rushed for a career-high 104 yards and returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, helping Kentucky avoid a potentially embarrassing defeat and win 41-29 over Division I-AA Idaho State on Saturday night.
The Big Sky Conference's Bengals (1-1) led 16-14 at halftime, and 29-28 with 5:06 left after a 26-yard blocked punt return for a touchdown by Sterling Mennear.
Little, a sophomore running back with only three previous career kickoff returns, took the ensuing kick back for the decisive score. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown by Kentucky (1-1) since November 2002, when Derek Abney did it, and the fourth-longest return in school history.
Kentucky cornerback Shomari Moore intercepted Idaho State quarterback Matt Hagler with 3:44 left, and the Wildcats sealed the win on tailback Arliss Beach's second touchdown of the game, a 2-yard run with 1:18 left.
Hagler completed 25-of-37 passes for a career-high 291 yards and rushed for two touchdowns but also threw four interceptions, two in the final 3:44 as the Bengals -- who outgained Kentucky 448 yards to 310 -- tried to rally.
Hagler's 1-yard run on the final play of the first half put the Bengals ahead 16-14. Kentucky led 28-16 in the fourth quarter when Hagler capped an 80-yard touchdown drive with a 3-yard run, pulling Idaho State within 28-23 with 6:54 left.
Kentucky went three-and-out, and Shedrack Okoebor blocked the punt by the Wildcats' Tim Masthay. Mennear scooped up the loose football and rumbled into the end zone.
Little, who had a career-high 19 carries, recorded many of his yards after he was initially hit. He recorded the first 100-yard game by a Kentucky running back since last Sept. 18, when Shane Boyd and Tony Dixon both did so in a win over Indiana.
Keenan Burton returned the opening kickoff 93 yards -- the longest non-scoring return in Wildcats history -- to the Idaho State 6, and Alexis Bwenge scored on the next play.
But the Bengals answered with a 63-yard pass on their first play from scrimmage and picked up field goals of 32, 50 and 31 yards from Jaret Johnson to go ahead 9-7 early in the second quarter. The 50-yarder was a career-best effort for the senior kicker.
Kentucky regained the lead at 14-9 with an 86-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 31-yard pass from Andre Woodson to Burton, who outjumped Idaho State cornerback Anthony Melvin in the end zone.
As the players exited the field at halftime, Kentucky fans booed -- reminiscent of last season, when the Wildcats stumbled to a 2-9 finish that included an embarrassing home loss to Ohio.
The Wildcats responded with third-quarter touchdown drives of 73 and 36 yards, the latter after a 30-yard punt return by Burton.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||9-17||5-11|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-0|
|TD||14:43||ALEXIS BWENGE 6 YD RUN (TAYLOR BEGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 6 yards.
|FG||12:53||JARET JOHNSON 32 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 71 yards.
|FG||4:54||JARET JOHNSON 50 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 52 yards.
|FG||14:18||JARET JOHNSON 31 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 41 yards.
|TD||5:19||KEENAN BURTON 31 YD PASS FROM ANDRE' WOODSON (TAYLOR BEGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 86 yards.
|TD||0:00||MATT HAGLER 1 YD RUN (JARET JOHNSON KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||7:57||JEREMIAH DROBNEY 9 YD PASS FROM ANDRE' WOODSON (TAYLOR BEGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||1:42||ARLISS BEACH 2 YD RUN (TAYLOR BEGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 36 yards.
|TD||6:54||MATT HAGLER 3 YD RUN (JARET JOHNSON KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||5:06||STERLING MENNEAR 26 YD BLOCKED PUNT RETURN (FAILED 2PT PASS)||29||28|
|TD||4:51||RAFAEL LITTLE 99 YD KICK RETURN (FAILED 2PT PASS)||29||34|
|TD||1:18||ARLISS BEACH 2 YD RUN (TAYLOR BEGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 48 yards.